Alan Turner walked on at Southern Illinois University four years ago. Now he's walking on to the New York Jets.
Two days after the NFL draft, the former Saluki wide receiver was invited to take part in the Jets' minicamp this weekend. The 6-foot, 200-pound honorable mention all-conference pick out of the Gateway leaves Thursday for a heavy weekend.
The Jets will put their free agents through two-a-days Friday and Saturday, with one more practice on Sunday.
"It's an opportunity now, and I'm going to take advantage," Turner said Monday. "It's a good situation, because they don't have too many receivers. As long as I take care of my part, everything should be OK."
Turner hopes to make one of nine roster spots left on the team. The Jets began the draft with 66 players, according to the New York Post, drafted six, and will cut one. Without NFL Europe, NFL teams must start training camp with no more than 80 players.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said free agents would get a fair shot. The Jets have played a number of undrafted free agents over the years, such as guard Brandon Moore, punter Ben Graham, wideout Wallace Wright and fullback Stacy Tutt.
"We're the land of opportunity," Tannenbaum said in an Associated Press story.
Turner led the Salukis with seven touchdown catches last season. He played in all 14 games, caught 46 passes for 672 yards, and averaged more than 14 yards per catch. Only Justin Allen had more receptions (55) and yards (685).
The Jets carried 10 wideouts Monday, but Turner would be one of the biggest on the team if he makes it. Rookie Marcus Henry, a sixth-round draft pick Sunday, is the largest at 6-4 and 207 pounds. Converted quarterback Brad Smith of Missouri is 6-2, 210. At 6-1, Marco Thomas and Wright are the next tallest receivers.
Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets' two biggest names at wideout, are 5-11 and 6-foot, respectively.
Turner finished his business economics degree in December. This weekend, he hopes to add professional football player to his resume.
"Bart Scott was a free agent," Turner said, invoking the Baltimore Ravens linebacker from SIU. "It's been done before."
Two other Salukis also received invitations for this weekend. Defensive tackle Larry Luster was invited by Detroit, while running back John Randle was invited by Kansas City.
Luster, a Springfield native, was a second team All-Gateway lineman. The 6-foot, 310-pounder had 39 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Randle, the team's starting tailback, averaged more than 100 all-purpose yards per game for the 12-2 semifinalists. The 5-11, 195-pounder rushed for 1,074 yards on 201 carries for 11 touchdowns.
As for Nick Hill, a free agent who signed with the Chicago Bears Sunday, Caleb Hanie is the other quarterback invited to Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune. Hanie, of Colorado State, led the Mountain West Conference in passing efficiency even though he was sacked 35 times. The 6-2 Hanie completed 188 of 293 attempts for 2,455 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
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